Childhood Memories Friday: Woodsy Owl

Hearken back with me to the ’70s, a time of bell bottom jeans, maxi dresses, thongs (shoes, not underwear), and Woodsy Owl.

Remember Woodsy? He was created for the first Earth Day, in 1970, and he represents the US Forest Service. His motto: Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute. I think he also encouraged us all to never be a dirty bird.

I remember hearing quite a bit about Woodsy when I was young. I guess it was the precursor to today’s environmental movement, with a lot of talk about not littering. In fifth grade, we did a musical about a litterbug and how he was polluting our good earth, etc.

Recently, I was looking through a box of old stuff and came across a picture of Woodsy. Apparently, I’d written to him.

woodsy owlAnother famous US Forest Service mascot was Smokey the Bear. We often drove by a sign in a nearby forest, with a huge likeness of Smokey and the message “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires — fire danger low today.” The “low” was on a sign that could be changed to “high” or whatever. Once, Mom took a picture of me and my sister by the sign.

There was even a Smokey Bear song in my second grade music book. I remember it, because the music teacher, an old lady named Mrs. Judd, cautioned us not to look around in our books! while she instructed us to turn to page 72 to sing “My White Horse.”

On the way to the white horse, I was totally fascinated to see a song titled “Smokey the Bear.” I had to read its lyrics, just a little, and I still remember some of them: Smokey the Bear is a good bear, Smokey the Bear is a wise bear, Smokey the Bear is a wise and good bear; do what he says to do.

Profound, to be sure. But Mrs. Judd was not impressed. I remember her walking over to me and looking down sternly through her big glasses.

“Didn’t I tell you not to look through your music book?”

Uh … yeah, I guess you did. I meekly turned to “My White Horse.”

A child looking through the music book — imagine that! I guess disciplinary issues changed a little in the last 40 years.

Do you remember Woodsy or Smokey?

4 thoughts on “Childhood Memories Friday: Woodsy Owl

  1. I had forgotten about Woodsy Owl but certainly not Smokey the Bear. I know we had a rather large book about Smokey! I feel sure students received sheets with pictures of Smokey on them that they were to color. So is Smokey now extinct? If so, I didn’t even have the presence of mind to bid him farewell. Woodsy and Smokey – thank you for reminding us to take care of our good earth! We only have ONE earth.

  2. Smokey the Bear was very big at places like Yellowstone National Park when my family of four were there in 1975. I think it is high time for a big revival about Smokey fighting forest fires, especially with such dry weather in so many areas of the U.S. The arsonists in CA and smokers anywhere who carelessly throw cigarette butts out of vehicle windows certainly could use a reminder!

    I didn’t know or remember that Woodsy was the name of the owl, but I remember putting posters up in my elementary classroom with an owl saying Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute. What I think is a real “hoot” is the fact that your music teacher made such a ridiculous demand of her young students not to look at any other pages in the book, except for the White Horse song. What a turnoff is that! Fortunately, the teacher did not squelch your musical prowess.

  3. Looking at that Photo he looks like he wandered off the set of the “New Zoo Review!!” (How’s that for a blast from the past.) My 6th or 7th grade Science Fair project was on pollution and I’m sure he was involved in my choice of topic! Or was it Smokey Bear? Or the Indian with the tears in his eyes?? Nice memories.

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