Smokey and I

The Bear Facts

Story and Photos by Jim Fazio

In 1984, when I was a professor of wildland recreation management at the University of Idaho, I spent a week in Boise at the Interagency Fire Center. We had a contract to help prepare Forest Service personnel to serve as information officers on large fires. My teaching partner was Richard (Dick) Johnson, a retired information specialist with decades of experience in that field. His work included fielding questions from the public about the forests’ most famous figure, Smokey Bear. To respond to inquiries about where Smokey memorabilia could be purchased, he used a mimeographed list of companies licensed by the Forest Service to create and sell products that bore Smokey’s image. When he retired, Dick decided to create a mail order business for Smokey Bear items.

Over a beer in Boise after one of the workshop sessions, Dick said he was thinking of really retiring and getting rid of his home-based work. I piped up that when that day came, I might be interested in taking it over. Little did I know that he would phone a couple months later and offer the chance to buy his business. Nor did I know this would change my life, help put our two kids through college, and make Moscow the distribution center of the widest variety of Smokey Bear products in the world.

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Jim Fazio

About Jim Fazio

Jim Fazio is professor emeritus in the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources and a freelance writer who has lived in Moscow for four decades. He is past president of the Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation and author of Across the Snowy Ranges: The Lewis & Clark Expedition in Idaho and Western Montana.

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