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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

August 9, 1944

It's time for another Tuesday Timeline entry - and given what has been happening in my area as of late, this edition seems timely.  And here's another small clue.  The accent colour I've chosen for today is related to today's subject.  That's all I'll leave you with for the time being.

But for now, let's have a look at some of the other happenings that took place on the 9th day of August.

48 B.C. - Julius Caesar defeats Pompey at Pharsalus and flees to Egypt

1173 - Construction begins on the Leaning Tower of Pisa

1483 - The Sistine Chapel in Rome opens to the public

1842 - The Webster-Ashburton Treaty is signed; thus establishing the border between the United States and Canada at the Rocky Mountains

1892 - The patent for the two-way telegraph is granted to Thomas Edison

1930 - Cartoon character Betty Boop makes her official debut in "Dizzy Dishes"

1935 - Soap opera actress Beverlee McKinsey (d. 2008) is born in McAlester, Oklahoma

1942 - The Quit India Movement is launched following the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi by British forces in Bombay

1945 - An atomic bomb is dropped in Nagasaki, Japan during World War II, killing at least 35,000 people instantly

1963 - Singer/actress Whitney Houston (d. 2012) is born in Newark, New Jersey

1965 - Singapore becomes the first and only country to become an independent nation unwillingly following its expulsion from Malaysia

1969 - Actress Sharon Tate, heiress Abigail Folger, actor Wojciech Frykowski, hairstylist Jay Sebring, and teenager Steven Parent are murdered by followers of Charles Manson

1974 - Richard Nixon resigns as President of the United States following the Watergate Scandal; Gerald Ford immediately takes over the presidency

1995 - Grateful Dead lead singer Jerry Garcia dies at the age of 53

2003 - Actor/choreographer Gregory Hines passes away at age 57

2008 - Actor/comedian Bernie Mac dies of a heart attack at the age of 50

2012 - Actor/director Al Freeman Jr. dies at the age of 78

2014 - African-American teenager Michael Brown is shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri by a police officer, leading to months of tension and frustration within the community

2015 - Football player and sportscaster Frank Gifford passes away a week before his 85th birthday

And, celebrating a birthday today are the following people; Shirlee Busbee, David Steinberg, Sam Elliott, Barbara Delinsky, John Varley, Jonathan Kellerman, James Naughtie, Roberta Tovey, Melanie Griffith, Kurtis Blow, Michael Kors, Brad Gilbert, Hoda Kotb, Deion Sanders, McG, Gillian Anderson, Eric Bana, Chris Cuomo, Thomas Lennon, Derek Fisher, Jessica Capshaw, Aled Haydn Jones, Rhona Mitra, Audrey Tautou, Charlie David, Ashley Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Lucy Dixon, and Alice Barlow.

Okay, so what date have we chosen for today?

Well, we're going to go back 72 years in time to August 9, 1944.

Now, I did mention that this blog entry is rather timely.  The reason why this is the case is because of the fact that my area is experiencing a drought at this time.

I don't know how dry it is in your neck of the woods, but the last heavy rainfall that my area had was exactly one month ago on July 9.  Since then, it's been dry as a bone.

This unfortunately has caused my area to be on a water conservation notice, which means that we are only allowed to use water as we need it.  In case you're wondering why the lawns in my area are a sickly shade of brown, that's the reason why.  Though I'll admit that my lawn doesn't look nearly as bad as some of the ones in towns further away than me.

Now, some of the dangers that are associated with droughts include crops failing, food prices going up, and water levels plummeting.  But perhaps the most dangerous concern to worry about are wildfires.

I don't believe that my area is under a burn ban notice yet, but if this dry weather continues, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we are.  When it comes down to wildfires, you can't be too careful.  All you would need to do is look up the devastating effects wildfires have had on California and Australia to see how dangerous they can be. 

In some cases, these wildfires start by way of nature - usually from lightning striking in a dry area, and in most cases, you can't really stop those fires from happening.  But we also know that fires can start by way of careless campers forgetting to put out campfires, or people deliberately setting fires for kicks, or people throwing lit cigarette butts in an area.  Those fires can be prevented.

And in 1944, a popular mascot began appearing on posters to let us know that forest fires could be prevented.  A mascot that was predominately brown.

How many of you remember seeing those commercials starring Smokey the Bear?  We've all seen at least one or two.  He's the friendly bear with the ranger hat who is very diligent on fire safety.  I still remember the slogan he used to utter with his big, booming voice.


It's a message that has been going strong for the last 72 years - though the slogan was later changed to "ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT WILDFIRES!" in the new millennium. 

And it was on this date in 1944 that the very first poster starring Smokey the Bear first made its appearance!  Check out the artwork for this poster!  It's simple, but it gets the point across.

But I bet you didn't know how Smokey the Bear first became the mascot, or why a mascot was even needed in the first place. 

Well, you have to keep in mind the time period in which Smokey the Bear was first introduced.  1944 was at the tail end of World War II, and as we well know, it was a war that became more intense and deadlier with each passing year.  With more and more men being deployed to various nations all over Europe and Asia during the war, it meant less and less manpower back in Canada and the United States.

As a result of this, wildfires that had sprouted up all along the West Coast of North America burned out of control and caused hundreds of acres to become destroyed.  Several people were also forced out of their homes due to the heat of the flames and the thickness of the smoke.  As if that wasn't bad enough, Japan actually tried to use fire balloons as a weapon to set several acres of forest in Washington, Oregon, and California ablaze to further wreak havoc - though only 10% of the balloons they released actually made it into the United States.

Initially, the United States government used characters from the Disney motion picture "Bambi" - with permission from Walt Disney - to promote the cause of preventing forest fires, but Disney had only granted use of the characters for one year, meaning that the government had to come up with a new spokesanimal to lead the charge.

Hence the reason for the creation of Smokey the Bear.  And here's some trivia for you.  The name "Smokey" came from the name of a fireman named "Smokey" Joe Martin, who was burned so badly in a fire in New York City in 1922 that he actually lost his sight.

The first Smokey poster was illustrated by Albert Staehle, and in 1947, Smokey's official slogan debuted.

Smokey the Bear certainly made an impact on the world.  The same year he was introduced in print media, toy company Knickerbocker Bears began manufacturing stuffed toys which proved to be a big hit.  

And in 1950, the living embodiment of Smokey the Bear was introduced to the world.  Originally named Hotfoot Teddy, the bear was rescued after being caught in the Capitan Gap fire - a wildfire that burned 17,000 acres in the Lincoln National Forest.  The bear cub tried to climb up a tree to safety but suffered burns on his paws and hind legs.  He would spend the next 26 years at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. until November 9, 1976, when he passed away.  But it's interesting to note the impact that the Smokey the Bear image had on people.  When the real life Smokey the Bear was still alive, he reportedly received up to 13,000 fan letters a week!  He received so much mail that the United States Postal Service gave him his own zip code!  Now that's how you know you've made it in this world!

These days, Smokey the Bear commercials and imagery is still very much present, and the legacy of Smokey the Bear continues to live on.  And considering how hot and dry this summer has been, I think we all need to take heed of his advice for preventing forest fires.

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