Originally published on Torontoist on September 21, 2010.
With summer’s end upon us, it’s time to take stock of the season gone by and see what lessons were learned, especially when it comes to personal safety. Can you find the seven flaws in this picture for Elmer the Safety Elephant? Unfortunately, we lack the official answers, but we invite you to make your best guesses!
Toronto Mayor Robert Hood Saunders was inspired by a child-safety program he observed in Detroit in 1946 and consulted with the Telegram to create a similar campaign here. Telegram editor Bas Mason and Toronto Police Department Inspector Vernon Page came up with the idea of using an elephant as a mascot due to the animal’s reputed powers of memory, and put out a worldwide call to fill the position. Elmer’s enthusiasm impressed the hiring committee and he assumed his role with great gusto in 1947. During his first year on the job, the number of traffic collisions in Toronto involving children dropped by 44%. For his second year on the job, Elmer was issued a cuter, more childlike costume designed by one-time Hollywood animator Charles Thorson that remained his standard outfit for decades.
Elmer’s brother Junior was also in the safety mascot biz for awhile, though his work was more commercial-minded. In ads such as the one above for Maremont, Junior demonstrated the right and wrong way to hang the manufacturer’s parts and equipment in garages. After an injury during a 1954 photo shoot for a hood producer, Junior retired and became Elmer’s business manager. A third brother, Pinky, served as the model for the drawing found on boxes of Lucky Elephant popcorn.