Smokey Bear memorabilia ranging from toy cars and stuffed animals to snuff boxes, belt buckles and silver coins fills the glass case in the lobby of the Douglas Forest Protective Association. The display is thanks to a renowned collector in the world of all things Smokey Bear, Marian Winchell of Roseburg.
To honor her lifelong love and dedication to Smokey Bear, her family is dedicating to Winchell the life-size wooden Smokey statue that stands outside the DFPA office at the corner of Stewart Parkway and Airport Road in Roseburg.
“We thought she has one of everything, but she doesn’t have a statue,” said her son, Jack Winchell, who’s part of the Smokey Bear Association. “Nobody has their own personal statue, and it can be a reminder for Douglas County.”
Marian Winchell, 89, said her favorite version of Smokey Bear is a plush bear with a rubber nose. She first became interested in Smokey Bear in the 1970s, when her husband worked as a fire patrol officer.
“I thought he was cute because he was just a little teddy bear to me at that time,” Marian Winchell said. “My kids got roped into Smokey.”
When the family lived in Northern Idaho, the kids would ride through a parade on a Smokey Bear-themed float, waving to the crowd alongside a person in a Smokey costume. The family later moved to Bend, and after her kids moved out, Marian Winchell said she filled the Bend house with Smokey Bear memorabilia. She had to downsize since moving to Roseburg, but she’s still on the lookout for anything related to Smokey Bear.
Jack Winchell said most people have distinct first memories of Smokey Bear. Marian Winchell remembered one a fellow Smokey Bear Association member told her.
“Smokey came to his school and it scared him to death, he thought the bear was going to eat him,” she laughed.
For Jack Winchell, it was a record player playing the Smokey Bear song.
The Winchells have displayed some of Marian’s collection throughout the state for educational purposes, and have worked with Kyle Reed at the DFPA, who hands out Smokey Bear materials in schools in Douglas County and educates students about fire prevention.
Before it was a Smokey Bear statue, the wooden figure outside the DFPA was a tree that burned in a fire near Loon Lake 15 miles east of Reedsport in the 1960s. It fell into the water and floated for years until someone fished it out in Reedsport. When Jack Winchell saw it, he thought it would make a great statue, so he had woodcarver Tom Castaneda transform the wood into Smokey Bear with a chainsaw in 2015.
“This is a fire-damaged tree, so it’s gone full circle,” Jack Winchell said. The tree that once burned in a forest fire became a symbol for fire prevention.
According to him, the first Smokey Bear statue ever was carved in Canyonville, so for the new one, he wanted everything from the wood to the carving and the display to come from Douglas County.
He had the 700-pound statue installed at the DFPA in 2015.
“It’s a great location here with people driving by to see it and it works well with our message,” Reed said. “Our job is to prevent and suppress wildfires, and Smokey’s whole message is fire prevention, so it’s a great fit.”
The dedication will take place this Saturday during a Smokey Bear Association celebration at the DFPA.
“It’s a legacy for her,” Jack Winchell said of his mother.
Smokey Bear has been reminding the public, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” since 1944, and has become the longest-running public service announcement campaign under the Advertising Council Inc. His motto was updated to “Only you can prevent wildfires” in 2001.
Jack Winchell said the association’s purpose is to “preserve Smokey’s past, promote is present and protect his future.”
“It’s harder to see Smokey Bear things out and about and I don’t want kids to forget him,” he said.
For more information about the Smokey Bear Association, visit smokeybearassociation.com.