Pastime: Those big Mountie calendars

As the New Year continues, I miss those big and I mean “big” wall calendars that the Potlatch Corporation once passed out around town for businesses.

Potlatch was not the only firm having giant sized wall calendars with many small month-by-month pages against the backdrop of a large photograph.

By Maylon Rice
By Maylon Rice

Saline River Chronicle Feature Contributor

All the barber shops along Main Street usually had a Cash & Sons Bottled Propane Gas sign featuring a different outdoor scene. One year it would be a pair of trophy bucks bounding through the forest, the next year, a magnificent gobbler strutting or a pair of greenhead mallards just taking flight in a cattail filled marsh.

Other firms, like the W.M. Hankins & Son Hardware or Hurley Hardware,  might have a bird dog on point, flushing a covey of quail from the underbrush.  

The Monticello-based Drew County Sale Barn (decades before the Bradley County Livestock Barn was established) might just have a few big white-faced red heifers wandering down a country lane.

These massive wall calendars 55 x 36 inches each sported a 20 x 14 inch monthly grid of calendar pages attached to the larger color photo of the outdoors for checking the dates.

I was asked if I needed a “new calendar” from a local business recently and I got two offers, one a much smaller printed, traditional calendar about the size of my first Blue Horse Notebook, complete with the dotted lines to learn how to make, smaller case and upper-case letters on;

Once, I know, about 10 or more business houses in Warren and Bradley County had big wall calendars for free to their customers.  These were usually dispensed out to businesses, barbershops, restaurants, garages, and other places where the public at large was to be found shopping.

In case of the barbershops, often where the executive of the Southern got his haircut, the calendar went up. Same could be said for the barbers themselves, if they liked to deer hunt, whoever had a big buck deer for the year, that went on the wall.

The Potlatch calendars with the Canadian Mounted Police officer on its artwork, was one that always hung in the Eagle Democrat where I worked after school. These calendars from the Idaho based corporate office, were to be valued and prized.

And the artwork was superb. These calendars are not just some enlarged photographic image that would be found in barbershops, or print shops across the country and then to resurface again next year. No sir, these were once-in-a lifetime works of art. 

Sadly, I am afraid, few, if any survive in Warren and Bradley County today. If you have one, think very seriously of donating it (no matter the date) to the Bradley County Museum, it is indeed an art work sharing with future generations.

I am repeating a little of the history I have learned over the years. I viewed the Potlatch and Mountie Calendars from the Potlatch magazine, once found on all types of waiting room tables in and around Warren.

The Potlatch Corporation in 1981, while in McGehee, and still seeing the Mountain wall calendars due to Potlatch owning the bleached board (paper mill) near Arkansas City, donated 349 of these Mountie paintings for the Tweed Museum of the University of Minnesota.

The paintings were valued at $3 million and were a gift to the art museum. The story in the Potlatch magazine said: “How Mountie Art Rescued Northwest Paper from the Great Depression.”

In a nutshell, when the Great Depression hit in 1930, the firm, to try to stem the declining revenues, hired a Chicago ad man named Fred Cash to help. He came up with the idea to launch a promotion using the Mountie as a symbol for Northwest’s printing papers. 

Cash also hit upon hiring the right illustrator – Hal Foster – who would later be known for his “Prince Valiant,” cartoon strip to draw the Mountie.

The campaign was good, but not nearly enough to bring solid financial footing for a while. The first wall calendar was in 1939 and was an instant success.

The wall calendars over the years once had a monthly memo pad at its highest rating sent to 30,000 customers each month with the Mountie likeness imprinted on these memo pads.

Northwest Paper became a division of Potlatch in 1964, about the time these calendars began appearing in Warren.  The last of the paintings was purchased from artists in 1970 and the company continued to use the works for several years thereafter. 

The Canadian, Western and Native America theme and an overall theme of stability, honor, high character over adversity, became a theme for Northwest Paper and Potlatch as well.

The paintings of the red coated Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer in a northwest setting were certainly beautiful works of art.  The one featured in this Pastime of the Mountain in a print shop admiring the work of a printer on a wanted poster appeared on the 1971 calendar.

These giant calendars of yesteryear are all gone. 

Today,  the free calendars are all gone –  it is a sad Pastime, I’ll never forget.

1 comment / Add your comment below

  1. I wish I could get printouts of all your works, I use to print them and put in my BC binder but since I am in the nursing home now I cannot do it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *