One of my favorite bits of information, to come over the airwaves, was a spot correcting someone who called our friend "Smokey THE Bear."
They were told in no uncertain terms it is Smokey Bear - not Smokey THE Bear!
They followed with "you wouldn't say Santa THE Clause, would you?"
I can't recall, but it may have been a promotional ad by the National Forest Service, but it did stick in my mind.
Regardless of what you call him, no other character has had the impact on saving our forests and many lives as well as Smokey has.
On August 9, Smokey Bear turns 66 years of age, and while he is now old enough to consider retirement, there are no plans in the works to take him away from his important work.
The whole concept of forest fire prevention began shortly after World War II started, when a Japanese submarine off the coast of Santa Barbara California fired shells that exploded close to the Los Padres National Forest.
Protection of the forests became a National concern.
The Advertising Council created posters and slogans, and the people at Disney allowed the use of their new character Bambi to be used on a poster.
With the one year limit on the use of Bambi about to expire, the Forest Service decided that the use of a bear would be appropriate.
On August 9, 1944 the first poster of Smokey Bear was released, showing Smokey pouring a bucket of water on a campfire.
He has been depicted on many different posters since that time, and he has also been licensed for use on many products, including some of the plush Smokey Bears now happily ensconced in our personal collections.
In 1950, following a large fire in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico, an orphan bear cub was found clinging to a tree. He was rescued and taken to a reception in Washington, D.C. thus creating a real living Smokey Bear.
This bear lived happily for another 26 years and other bear cubs have followed in the tradition.
Poster photos from www.smokeybear.com the official site.