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Smokey Bear celebrates 65 years of service

August 11, 2009 | 10:28 am

Smokey Smokey Bear turned 65 this weekend.

The iconic fire prevention figure, known to outdoor enthusiasts and nature and animal lovers young and old, has changed little since first gracing U.S. Forest Service posters in 1944.

In all these years, the catch phrase associated with Smokey has only been updated twice. The original, "Smokey Says -- Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires" was switched to "Remember...Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires" in 1947, then again modified in 2001 to "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires," to better cover natural areas other than forests that may be affected by fires.

Smokey did also go through a name change, when "the" was added in 1952. It wasn't a "legal" change though, and was only inserted by songwriters to help maintain the rhythm in an anthem. Smokey enthusiasts still debate the correct name. (The Times style book states the correct usage is Smokey or Smokey Bear, not Smokey the Bear.)

No matter how you say it, the Smokey Bear wildfire prevention campaign is the longest running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history.

An ironic side note: Smokey's "birthday" coincides with the opening weekend of bear hunting season in California.

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: Smokey Bear poster. Credit: U.S. Forest Service