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Happy Birthday Smokey Bear!

What’s your first memory of Smokey Bear?

Smokey Bear has been one of the most effective characters for a continuing ad campaign — ever. He’s been in print, television and radio public service announcements (PSAs) and is recognized by 95 percent of adults and 77 percent of children in the U.S., according to the Ad Council.

Smokey’s likeness has been marketed in comic books and Little Golden Books, with Tonka toys, salt ‘n’ pepper shakers, clocks, clothing, bobblehead dolls, in songs and as stuffed animals. Inexplicably, Smokey has also had his own brand of charcoal briquettes, matches and lighter — all in the 1960s.

Although his look has changed ever-so-slightly since his creation in 1944, what hasn’t changed is his trademark ranger’s hat, jeans and shovel, along with his request for personal responsibility in the forests.

This year marks Smokey’s 70th birthday, and his original slogan was “Smokey Says — Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires.” That slogan was modified by the Ad Council in the late 1940s to “Remember … Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires,” and again in 2001 to say “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”

Smokey's debut poster was released on August 9, 1944, which is considered his anniversary date - image USFS

Smokey’s debut poster was released on August 9, 1944, which is considered his anniversary date – image USFS

According to the Ad Council, which administers Smokey’s image along with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, Smokey’s original illustration was created in 1944 by Albert Staehle. Smokey’s most enduring look was given to him by Rudy Wendelin, who drew Smokey’s likeness for more than 30 years.

Smokey’s debut poster was released on August 9, 1944, which is considered his anniversary date.

Smokey The Bear Song – In 1952, Eddy Arnold sings “Smokey the Bear” for an old public service announcement. Purists will tell you that his name is “Smokey Bear” – without the “the.” It was this song, which was quite popular with kids in the 1950’s, that changed his name in common use. It’s not Eddy’s fault, the song was written by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins. However, the Smokey Bear Act of 1952 (16 U.S.C. 580 (p-2); 18 U.S.C. 711) that shortly followed the release of this song, mandates that he only be referred to as “Smokey Bear.”

“Remember … only YOU can prevent forest fires.”Smokey Bear images over the years - courtesy USFS










“Smokey The Bear” Song

With a Ranger’s hat and shovel
and a pair of dungarees,
you will find him in the forest
always sniffin’ at the breeze.
People stop and pay attention
when he tells ’em to beware,
’cause ev’rybody knows that
he’s the Fire Prevention Bear.

Smokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear.
Prowlin’ and a growlin’ and a sniffin’ the air.
He can find a fire before it starts to flame.
That’s why they call him Smokey,
That was how he got his name.

You can take a tip from Smokey
that there’s nothin’ like a tree.
’cause they’re good for kids to climb in
and they’re beautiful to see,
you just have to look around you
and you’ll find it’s not a joke,
to see what you’d be missin’
if they all went up in smoke.

You can camp upon his doorstep
and he’ll make you feel at home;
You can run and hunt and ramble
anywhere you care to roam.
He will let you take his honey
and pretend he’s not so smart,
but don’t you harm his trees
for he’s a Ranger in his heart.

If you’ve ever seen the forest
when a fire is running wild,
and you love the things within it
like a mother loves her child,
then you know why Smokey tells you
when he sees you passing through,
“Remember…please be careful….
it’s the least that you can do.”

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