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Posts Tagged ‘forest fire prevention’

Once again, the American voters have gotten it wrong. Once again, they failed to elect Smokey Bear to the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame in this year’s voting, which closed at the end of September. The iconic bear is just that—ICONIC. He defines the word. His picture could be in the dictionary beside the word to illustrate what an icon is.

This advertising legend set the standard for all who have followed. There are few other such characters with Smokey’s longevity, and fewer still that combine his longevity with his level of international fame and recognition, and none who have benefited society more. As I saw last week at the North Carolina State Fair, children (of all ages) still get excited about seeing him and proudly and happily wear stickers with his message. He is not pushing a product we don’t need, like some other bears now on the Walk; he’s promoting an idea that saves lives. Created in 1944 to promote the message that forest fires are destructive and that humans need to be vigilant about preventing them, by 1964 he had become so famous that the U.S. Postal Service gave him his own zip code to help handle his volume of fan mail. His famous phrase “Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” became so widely recognized that he only had to say the first two words and people knew what he was talking about. In one poster, he simply prompted readers to “Think” and they knew what to think.

Advertising Week executive director Matt Scheckner unwittingly told us the fundamental flaw with this so-called Walk of Fame: “Going back to 2004 when we first started, what we have tried to do is mix classic and contemporary; and by design, we work to freshen it up every year.” I suspect Mr. Scheckner realizes his walk isn’t what it really should be. I wonder if Advertising Week is ashamed of the venture. I couldn’t find a website dedicated to the walk, and it doesn’t even have a listing in Wikipedia. Rather surprising for an organization dedicated to the art of promotion. Moreover, every other walk or hall of fame is for those who have earned a spot because of their contributions to the field over a long period of time. It should not be a popularity contest or what strikes the public’s fancy now. Even the Hollywood Walk of Fame has standards! For theirs, you have to have a minimum of five years’ experience in your field and, unlike Kim Kardashian, you need to actually do something worth commemorating in stone.

Now contrast what’s just happened on Madison Avenue with how they handle things a few hours’ north at Cooperstown. In 1936, when they voted in the first class for the Baseball Hall of Fame, voters elected the five guys who to this day remain the gold standard of baseball: Ruth, Wagner, Cobb, Johnson, and Mathewson. Journalists and knowledgeable fans still measure every player that’s followed against those guys and what they did on the field. They won’t vote in Mike Trout or Bryce Harper next year because they’ve caught our fancy. They measure those rookies against the greatest, like Ruth or DiMaggio, and tell them, “Okay, you had one outstanding year. If you want to be enshrined, do it again for 9 more.” (Players considered for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame have to be retired for 5 years and had to have played for 10 years.) The Advertising Walk of Fame should have standards, too, such as the character has to have a career that’s lasted for a minimum number of years (I suggest 5, half of the requirement for Cooperstown, but enough to prove a character’s contributions and durability while also eliminating flash-in-the-pans) and first appeared a minimum number of years before (I suggest 8) to prevent a character in its fifth year of usage from being elected (Cooperstown requires that a player be retired for 5 calendar years; here, the three additional years provide extra time to assess merit and durability). Smokey is more than eligible on these standards. And given his long association with baseball, and baseball’s with him, perhaps he should be considered by Cooperstown for his contribution to the game.

But back to the flaws in the election process. Some characters in the Advertising Walk of Fame, like the AOL Running Man, weren’t well remembered at the time of their election and don’t resonate at all today. Some are so new, like Mayhem from Allstate Insurance (which first appeared in 2010), that it makes a mockery of the very idea of a walk of fame. And why was a character like Progressive Insurance’s Flo, created in 2008, under consideration last year and then elected this year? Bob Garfield of Advertising Age summed it up nicely after they announced last year’s nominees: “[H]ow do we all know Flo?” Garfield asked. “It’s because she’s on TV every three seconds, and we can’t get out the DVR fast enough to fast-forward past her.” With Smokey, less is more. You don’t have to hear his message every 5 minutes to know what it is. That’s how you know he’s the marketing gold standard.

Smokey changed more than just marketing world—he changed the real world. He shouldn’t have to stoop to campaigning for votes against insurance peddlers and sugar pushers. He should’ve been in the founding class of the Advertising Walk of Fame. In fact, Smokey, you’re in a class by yourself and don’t need to be there. I say, Smokey, just walk away from the Walk of Fame.

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Between 1891 and 1938, forestry in North Carolina saw many changes. The state government hired its first state employee to carry out forestry work in 1891; its first professionally trained forester, John Simcox Holmes, in 1909; and its first fire wardens in 1915 (four years after the Weeks Act had passed). However, when Holmes was given the titles of State Forester and State Forest Warden in 1915, no additional funding was appropriated for the positions. In 1922, the North Carolina state legislature gave less than $3,000 to the state for fire protection. Nonetheless, twenty counties matched state funds and each hired a fire warden. In 1926, the state constructed its first fire tower, in Harnett County. Between 1933 and 1938, the Civilian Conservation Corps helped build 52 new fire towers, as well as hundreds of miles of telephone line, roads, and trails, while also assisting with other forest beautification projects. By 1936, two-thirds of the state’s forests had been brought under organized fire protection.

Photographs featuring this history were tucked away in a box in a dilapidated warehouse in Clayton, North Carolina, when Coleman Doggett gained permission to retrieve them in the 1970s. The staff at the Forest History Society has since processed over 500 photographs from Doggett’s collection and posted a finding aid to the collection. The photographs, taken between 1923 and 1947, feature various aspects of forestry in North Carolina, such as lookout towers, fire control (both fire lines and controlled burns), exhibits, groups and gatherings, machinery, roads, and signs. A portion of those images may be found in a new photo gallery.

A few gems from the collection can be found below.

North Carolina state forester John Simcox (J.S.) Holmes with warden D.L. Moser at Mt. Mitchell State Park, 1923.

D. L. Moser (right), the first forest warden of Mt. Mitchell State Park, with J. S. Holmes (left), North Carolina’s first state forester, at Mt. Mitchell State Park in 1923 (CD9).

Nursery bed,  Mount Mitchell State Park, 1928. Ed Wilson, park warden, in background. Yancey County, NC.

This photo, taken in 1928, shows park warden Ed Wilson standing behind a four-year-old Southern Balsam (or Fraser fir) that was planted by D. L. Moser in 1924. Moser began experimenting to see if he could artificially repopulate Fraser fir forests (CD5).

Lorain Dragline purchased by Riegel Parker Corp. in March 1939 and turned over to CCC for road construction, Brunswick County, NC.

This Lorain Dragline was purchased in 1939 for approximately $1,200 by Riegel Paper and turned over to the Civilian Conservation Corps for road construction projects (CD39).

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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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On this date in 1921, the U.S. Forest Service convened the first national conference on fire control at Mather Air Field near Sacramento, California. Virtually all the agency’s leaders and brightest minds came together for the conference, including six district (now regional) foresters and six forest supervisors, numerous Washington office people including Chief William Greeley, and others of various ranks. Leaders in fire research and policy such as S. B. Show, E. I. Kotok, Evan Kelley, and William Osborne attended, as did Aldo Leopold and future chief Lyle Watts. All seven districts were represented.

The two-week long conference, the first national conference held by the U.S. Forest Service on any topic, was organized to address the controversy surrounding the issue of allowing light burning on federal lands. California was chosen as the host site because that district was a leader in the development of fire control theory and practice, and because many of the problems there could be found throughout the country.

A major outcome of the conference was settlement of the debate between those favoring “let burn” and light burning and those like Greeley and Show who believed in aggressively attacking all fires. Policies varied from district to district and even forest to forest. The agency found itself in a quandary because it was letting some light burning occur on lands adjacent to national forests but demanded that fires on federal land be fought. Agency leaders felt that this contradiction undermined its authority and wanted to formulate a national standard. The debate over what to do had been raging for more than a decade and had become important enough to prompt a national conference on the topic. Greeley’s position was clear; in an article a short time before, he had derisively dismissed the use of light burning as “Piute burning.”

Not surprisingly Chief Greeley decided in favor of attack and control. The agency set forest fire control as a priority over other activities, established national forest fire control standards, and provided for cooperation in forest fire control between districts. This new attitude towards fire control is best exemplified by the “10 a.m. policy,” under which the Forest Service decreed that all fires on federal land would be attacked as quickly as possible and fought until extinguished. The Forest Service is still dealing with the fallout of that decision ninety years later because the resulting fuel buildups continue to create problems for fire control personnel and forest managers.

For Greeley, the outcome of the conference gave him the opportunity to shape agency policy as he had long hoped. As the district ranger in Montana during the 1910 fires, he had come away from that disaster convinced of the need for cooperative fire control and the elimination of fire from forests. After the 1921 conference, he unequivocally committed the agency to cooperative forest management and systematic fire control. His next major move was pushing for the Clarke-McNary Act of 1924, which strengthened and expanded the provisions of the Weeks Act, particularly in cooperative fire control. To achieve these goals, Greeley brushed aside dissent and further debate on the topic of light burning, which left those who favored it labeled as heretics for years.

To learn more about the conference and its impact, you may wish to consult Stephen Pyne’s Fire in America, from which much of this information is drawn. We also have oral history interviews with Kotok, Show, and Kelley.

1921 Fire Control Conference

Osborne is standing 2nd from left; Watts is 6th from left; Greeley is in the second row 7th from left; and Leopold is 3rd from left in the front row. (click to enlarge).

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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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Tonight’s MLB All-Star game in fire-prone Arizona reminds us that Smokey Bear had his own All-Star team back in the 1980s (back when the Pittsburgh Pirates used to have winning seasons). During spring training, Smokey—a Hall of Fame-caliber manager if ever there was one—would pose with players from teams for his own trading cards. Some card sets feature Smokey with an entire team. The back contained info about the player, the sponsors’ logos, and a cartoon with a fire prevention message (see last card below). These cards are from 1987, and feature Ozzie Smith (15-time all-star), Steve Garvey (10 times), Johnny Ray (1 time), Mike Scott (3 times), and Steve Sax (5 times). Smokey has his own card, of course, because when it comes to fire prevention, he’s a perennial all-star.

Ozzie Smith and Smokey Bear

Ozzie Smith and Smokey Bear. Known as "The Wizard" for his outstanding defense, Smith is in the baseball Hall of Fame.

Steve Garvey and Smokey Bear

Steve Garvey and Smokey Bear. Garvey spent his career in fire-prone Southern California with the L.A. Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. He was known for having a hot bat in his many playoff appearances.

Smokey Bear and Johnny Ray. Perhaps if Johnny had used a bat instead of a shovel, he would have made the All-Star team more than once.

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