Smokey the Bear is 70!! Let’s all join his furry friends in wishing him a happy 70th Birthday!!
I grew up watching Smokey the Bear commercials on TV and seeing his posters around school. For those that don’t know, Smokey has been an icon in wildfire prevention since 1944. Believe it or not, the story begins in the spring of 1942, after a Japanese submarine fired cannon salvos near an oil field near Santa Barbara, very close to the Los Padres National Forest. This created a fear that the enemy may use incendiary shells to set off forest fires (in addition to those already being cause by our citizens). Protection of these forests became a matter of national importance. An idea began to develop, If people could be urged to be more careful, perhaps some of the fires could be prevented.
Walt Disney authorized the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program to use the characters from his movie “Bambi” on posters for one year. The Bambi poster was very successful and proved that using an animal as a fire prevention symbol would work. August 9, 1944 is Smokey’s date of birth. It was on this date that the Wartime Ad Council agreed to use a bear as the symbol for fire prevention.
I encourage everyone to visit the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA. It is free to enter and through Feb 2, 2015 these 19 fantastic paintings will be on display. Exhibit details. A description of the Smokey artwork above…
Why? – This painting shows Smokey with cubs holding his leg and chest. A deer stands behind them. All around them are a burned out forest and a dramatic orange sky. One has to wonder, is the fire still burning behind them?
Careless People are the Problem – Smokey has a wooden easel and is teaching the animals (deer, quail, chipmunk, rabbits, turtles, raccoon, squirrel, cardinal, bluebirds and cubs) that PEOPLE + MATCHES = FIRE. The backdrop is the location of a former forest fire with it’s burnt trees. This was one of my favorite paintings of the collection.
Trees are Wonderful Friends – Smokey is hugging a tree with one cub climbing the trunk. Other cubs are playing, deer are nibbling and the fish are jumping in the background. Trees are good. Not only do they convert CO2 into oxygen, but they provide us with many natural resources including food, shelter and relaxation.
Dream of a Well-Remembered Forest Fire – Smokey is sleeping against a burned tree trunk in new forest growth. Smokey is dreaming about his rescue from a forest fire as a cub. While fantasy; it is based on true events. The living symbol of Smokey Bear was an American black bear cub rescued in 1950 from a fire in the Capitan Mountains in the Lincoln National Forest. The firefighters who rescued the bear cub called him Hot Foot Teddy but his name was quickly changed to Smokey Bear. He was brought to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and became the living symbol of forest fire prevention until his death in 1976.
Protect our Resources – Smokey is in the foreground, pointing to scenic view in the background. A lake, mountains and waterfall in the distance, two cubs at right peer at a group of people looking at the view. It is important to preserve our natural resources so future generations can enjoy them too.
- Dates of Exhibit: Aug 9, 2014 – Feb 2, 2015
- Location: Chrysler Museum of Art – Norfolk, VA
- Artist: Rudy Wendelin
- Sponsor: Va Dept. of Forestry (it’s their 100th Birthday)