Toronto Police Inspector Vern Page developed Elmer the Safety Elephant in 1947 in response to traffic accidents involving children. Credit for the character's appearance goes to Charles Gustav Thorson, a Canadian-born cartoonist who had worked with several major American studios and helped design Bugs Bunny. The initial program, in which an anthropomorphic cartoon elephant in a funny hat encourages traffic safety, was sponsored by the Toronto Telegram newspaper. Within one year of bringing the program to elementary schools, traffic accidents involving children were reduced nearly by half. The program passed to the Ontario Safety League, and other Ontario cities quickly adopted the mascot and his in-class safety messages. In 1961, the Canadian Highway Safety Council took over the program, and disseminated it throughout Canada.
The current version of Elmer looks younger and wears trendy clothes and a baseball cap.
Originally, Elmer had 6
rules for safety; a seventh rule for seatbelts was added in the 1970s (I was told that Elmer had a friend named Patch the Pony who taught us, Neigh, neigh, from strangers, stay away, but he was the mascot for an entirely different program. I doubt he and Elmer ever met)
. Elmer's Safety Rules have been lifted from the Canada Safety Council's Website, but are well-remembered from my time in an Ontario elementary school:
Look all ways before you cross the street.
Keep away from parked cars.
Ride your bike safely-- obey signs and signals.
Play in a safe place away from the street.
Walk when you cross the street.
Where there is no sidewalk, walk on the left, facing traffic.
Always wear your seat-belt in the car.
Elmer's official website may be found at http://www.elmer.ca