Thursday, November 5, 2015

Smokey Gets In Your Eyes

Smokey Gets In My Eyes
I'm on a circuitous route to my next Habitat For Humanity house builds in Hobbs, NM. From Alamogordo I bypassed some mountain passes in my RV to get to New Mexico's Smokey Bear Historic Park in Capitan.  Like Disney's Bambi and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Smokey The Bear was a fixture of my youth. I loved them both.

From the backseat of the family station wagon travelling in Minnesota, Wisconsin and northern Michigan whenever I saw a live white-tailed deer along the road (there were plenty of dead ones too) I'd squeal "Rudy, Rudy, Rudy!" (Not to be confused with Rudolph Valentino that was also a movie favorite.)

Bambi, the movie, was produced in 1942 and had eight years to infuse the culture before I was born into its place in history. Like Smokey, Bambi played an important role in educating the public about preventing forest fires.

In that period it was not uncommon to see white-tailed deer and black bears either in the local county dump (well before landfills became the dump du jour) or in cages at roadside tourist spots. "Take your Picture With Bambi" or "Feed The Wild Bear" the signs would shout. I probably didn't associate the real Smokey with living in a cage despite the fact that Smokey spent all his 26 years in a cage at The National Zoo in Washington, DC.

At the roadside stops one could buy a bottle of sweet soda pop and feed the depressed bear ensconced safely inside a chain link fence. It's terribly disheartening to think about now, but to a child it was thrilling and astounding to be that close to a wild creature. As an adult I'm saddened by the loss of innocence. That tear in my eye isn't from smoke. That feeling is probably why some fifty years later I volunteered at the Vince Shute Black Bear Sanctuary in Orr, MN. But, I certainly do digress, don't I? I blog about more bears later.

Boy Scout Fire Prevention Poster
Smokey The Bear was and still is an important part of twentieth century lore. He pulled at the emotional heart strings of America in the 1940s and 50s.

Wartime Poster
He became part of the war effort in 1942, was a central theme of the Boy Scouts of America in their conservation activities, and helped start the wildland conservation movement we witness today.

The Smokey’s Museum opened in Capitan, New Mexico in 1961. The museum is housed in a rustic one room cabin full of Smokey The Bear memorabilia, photos, and posters that chronicle the influence of Smokey The Bear on preventing forest fires.

Smokey at Age 8 in
The National Zoo
"The Museum is located a 102 Smokey Bear Blvd, on the north side of State Highway 380, just west of the intersection with State Highway 48, and just east of the Smokey Bear Historical Park."

Want to know more about Smokey? Please visit the museum or this historical outline website.

Smokey's Timeline


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