Local Public Health Education Mascots of the 1980s
If you remember the joys of a typical primary school assembly, you may well remember singing All Things Bright and Beautiful or Sing Hosanna. Sometimes, fellow pupils would have been invited to stand on a ‘birthday box’ where 200 or so pupils would sing the world’s most performed and profitable song known to man (Happy Birthday that is).
On odd occasions, there may have been a visit from the fire service, a local police officer or an ambulance porter. On these occasions, they would warn children to avoid playing with matches, talking to strangers or trespassing onto railway lines. To lighten the mood a little, they would often have a mascot, an identifiable friendly face of the operations as a counterbalance to the boring and important.
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Few people would release that Welephant was born in Lancashire. The red elephant came about as an idea among firefighters and ancillary staff at Bury’s fire station, in order to warn children over the dangers of fire. Launched in 1978, the portly elephant would be subject of many a cautionary tale. He, Rupert The Bear fashion, would be supported by his relatives and best friend Spiky the Hedgehog.
By the mid-1980s, Welephant would be popular outside Greater Manchester, with a number of other fire and rescue services adopting him as their mascot. It would be seen in many a carnival or fun day throughout the country. Today, he is in the care of the Children’s Burns Trust, and Welephant has become Britain’s answer to Smokey Bear. His uniform, in line with present day watches has changed. As well as being on the back of a fire engine in Bury Carnival, he has his own website.
Furthermore, few public health mascots have cut a single. Graham Walker, a.k.a. The Singing Fireman, also gave Welephant his own signature tune in 1987. It got to Number 87 in the UK singles chart, selling 40,000 copies. Which is double the number needed for Eric Prydz’s UK Number One spot in the summer of 2004. The video, seen below, includes Claire and Friends, his wife Denise, and is filmed at Moss Side Fire Station. Notice the guest appearance by Crow from BBC One’s Saturday Superstore.
Not to be outdone by Greater Manchester County Fire Brigade, Greater Manchester Police had an approachable mascot. Bobby Bug was an insect dressed in full police garb. Though he was supposed to be an insect, his face was ‘tantastic’ years before the phrase existed. Like his elephant counterpart, Bobby Bug would also be seen at carnivals and school assemblies.
Bobby Bug’s phrase was ‘Remember, A Policeman Is Your Friend’. One which today’s twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings may think otherwise if caught by a speed camera.
Supposing this blog article was a Pointless subject, Foodidoo would be an answer in the minuses, let alone zero points. Foodidoo was a walking advertisement for ‘five a day’ before its time. The mascot perpetuated the tantastic head theme with a pumpkin for his head and cucumbers as arms.
Foodidoo was launched in March 1987 by Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, as part of the borough’s healthy eating campaign. I saw the said mascot outside Ashton Town Hall en route to catching a 409 for Oldham. In its school canteens, there was a healthy option dish as well as the usual chips. These had a green label which read ‘Choose Me – Go For Health’.
Though seemingly in obscurity, Foodidoo was the subject of in-school training packs – available via NHS Manchester’s resource centre today, aimed at Key Stage 2 pupils.
Shortly after Foodidoo – and more memorable today – is Tameside Ted. He was launched in the mid-1990s to promote healthy living and safety in the home. The friendly brown bear is often seen at carnivals, council events and fairs. He also opened the Arcades Shopping Centre along with Su Pollard and a now disgraced Hydonian sports reporter.
The Tameside Ted suit is available for hire from Tameside MBC’s website, a snip at £25 per day.
Just to confuse things a little, there are two Wally Walrus characters. One is a cartoon character from the 1940s and 1950s who featured with Woody Woodpecker. The other, instead of having a Swedish accent, is barely seen outside of Tameside Leisure Pool.
Launched in the early 1990s, its remit was, and remains today, is as the mascot for Tameside Sports Trust’s pre-school swimming lessons. Assisted by parents, pre-schoolers would be entertained by Wally Walrus whilst learning to get used to the water, with a mix of play and lessons. Today, lessons are undertaken at Hyde Leisure Pool, with a new generation of toddlers being told to ‘jump in the water’.
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Did You Foodidoo?
There must be more than one person on this planet who remembers Foodidoo and Bobby Bug, so feel free to double the numbers at the very least. If you’re able to sing Welephant’s matches song verbatim, feel free to comment.
S.V., 26 May 2014.